One of the most mysterious medieval sites in Kazakhstan, Akyrtas lies some 45 km from Taraz. The site of Akyrtas is rectangular in plan, covering an area of some 4 hectares. Its walls are constructed of large red sandstone blocks, which must have been hugely difficult to bring here from their hillside quarry, several hundred metres away. A trench dug alongside the outer wall around the circular tower marking the northwest corner of the structure reveals that the walls rise to a height of more than 4 m, most of that below the current level of the ground. The structure contains many rooms, around a central courtyard. One of a number of strange features about the complex is that it was built far from any natural source of water, necessitating a complicated system of water provision. Archaeologists now date the site to no earlier than the middle of the 8th century.
There is no academic agreement as to the nature of the structure at Akyrtas. Some believe that the site represents the ruins of the settlement of Kasribas. Other researchers believe that it was a palace, a caravanserai. The Russian academic Vasily Bartold thought that it may have been a Nestorian monastery, drawing attention to a carving of a fish, a Christian symbol, on one stone block. The site seems to have been abandoned in an unfinished condition and archaeologists have uncovered no evidence of human habitation. There are indeed some in Kazakhstan who believe that this mysterious structure, with its huge cube-shaped building blocks, was the work not of humans but aliens. The site is claimed by some to possess great powers, and you may find as you walk round the site some of your fellow visitors hugging its stones, or standing motionless in hollows, absorbing its cosmic energies.